A Devotional Thought from Richard Dawkins

Last fall, acclaimed atheist Richard Dawkins released his newest book, Out Growing God. For those familiar with Dr. Dawkins’ previous books, the book offers nothing new. However, this book has a more targeted audience: teenagers.

Dawkins dedicates the book to “all young people when they’re old enough to decide for themselves.” In the book he recounts that he “gave up” Christianity when he was fifteen years old. Dawkins offers this book as a guide for those headed in the same direction.  

As I read, I stumbled on a thought that I believe has some value for Christian believers—yes, a devotional thought courtesy of Richard Dawkins!

His Accusation

A few times through the book thinking about Old Testament Israel. He brings into question their monotheism. Basically, he talks as though they weren’t:

“…although the Israelites worshipped their own tribal god Yahweh, they didn’t necessarily disbelieve in the gods of rival tribes, such as Baal, the fertility god of the Canaanites; they just thought Yahweh was more powerful – and also extremely jealous…” [1]

Dawkins is following an argument from as late as the 19th century. German theologians, namely Julius Wellhausen, reinterpreted the Jewish religion through a Darwinian lens. Wellhausen popularized the idea that the Jewish religion evolved over time from animism (the belief that a spirit lived in everything), to polytheism (the belief in many gods), to totemism (the belief one’s tribe descended from a group of plants or animals), to ancestor worship, and eventually to monotheism—well, sort of.

This idea is not new, but it is also not current and for good reason. Jewish scholar Rich Robinson explains:

“Unfortunately, [Wellhausen’s] influence was based on assumptions and philosophies which had little to do with historical evidence. The recent upsurge in modern archaeology has shown Wellhausen’s viewpoint to be arbitrary and outdated.”[2]

(Note: I highly recommend Dr. Robinson’s article on the topic. It was concise but helpful on the issue.)

So why does Dawkins portray the Israelites this way? My guess is that he is attempting to relegate the Jewish religion to the ash heap of ancient paganism. After all, conflating the Biblical narrative with the mythologies of the past and dismissing it accordingly is one of Dr. Dawkins’ favorite thing to do. The strategy is clear: if he can disregard the Jewish religion, he can disregard the fulfillment of it, Christianity.

However, as with so much of Richard Dawkins critique of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, he acts as though his assertions are a given. When he offers evidence for his claim, which is rare, it is feeble at best.

But, here’s the thing…

On this issue, I think he kind of has a point. It’s just not the one he intended.

Our Reflection

Think about how many times the Children of Israel turned to idols. Think of how often  idolatry was in the pervasive land. There were many points in Hebrew history that worshiping the gods of their enemies was the norm. Moses and the prophets told them that there was only one God and that they were to worship and obey him alone. They were supposed to be monotheistic. But they often failed to act like it.

I am not sure what value that fact has for Dr. Dawkins other than criticizing believers for not being as consistent as their beliefs should make them. (A line of reasoning that has gotten him in trouble before.)

However, his comments prompt me to ask myself: Years from now, what evidence will a skeptic have on me to accuse me of not being truly monotheistic?

In other words, how much am I capitulating to my culture and bringing idols into my heart and mind when Christ has claimed them for himself?

Like the Hebrews, we live in a world with an abundance of phony gods. Our culture worships the pantheon of modern deities like money, power, and comfort. We are called on to show obeisance to the postmodern deities of moral relativity and individual autonomy.

The real difficulty is that our culture has an ally on the inside. The Bible tells us that our hearts work in tandem with the world in the idol making process. In Ezekiel 14, three times within four sentences, God indicts his people for setting up “idols in their hearts.” (Ezekiel 14:3-7) We do not make idols with our hands; we make them with our hearts.

Hand-crafted images made of wood or precious metals are not much of a temptation these days. Furthermore, most of us Christians avoid the worship of blatantly sinful idols that come by way of temptation and addiction. But our hearts are more menacing than that. You see, we tend to make idols out of the good things in life. 

Timothy Keller explains how this happens:

“The human heart takes good things…and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.”[3]

That is to say, an idol is not defined by its inherent goodness or badness. An idol is “anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”[4]

So I ask myself, what am I seeking to give me what only God can give? (…and probably already has given!)

May God help us to detect and destroy the idols our hearts create. That way, years from now, no one can look back and accuse us of not being truly monotheistic.


[1] Richard Dawkins, Outgrowing God, p. 7. 

[2] Rich Robinson, “Monotheism of the Ancient Hebrews: Evolved, Invented, Stolen or Revealed?” (https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-0505-letters-to-the-editor/monotheism-of-the-ancient-hebrews-evolved-invented-stolen-or-revealed/)

[3] Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p. xiv.

[4] Keller, p. xvii.


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2019 Reading Review

open book apologetics worldviews

Last year, when I wrote about my reading journey through 2018, I did not know what to expect. I worried about coming across as braggy. I wondered at the anxiety that would come from broadcasting my yearly reading goal. However, I only wanted to encourage others to engage in one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity—reading.

The response was exactly what I had hoped for. In the weeks that followed, readers replied with questions about certain books. Others recommended books for my 2019 reading list. Through the year, many have shared parts of their own reading journey. It has been awesome!

The problem is, now my hands are tied! Apparently, when you let the world know what your plans are for the year, people expect a follow-up. Who knew?
So, here we are a year later. I am happy to report that I have achieved my goal of reading 60 books this year.

The following is a summation of my year in reading.

Continue reading “2019 Reading Review”

Personal > Digital

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Have you ever learned a lesson that you should have already known? I spent the first half of this year doing exactly that.

I have heard all my life how important friends are.  I have been taught since childhood that if I am to have friends, I must be a friend worth having. I have been told that friendship is key to a balanced life.

Yet, I have spent the first half of this year learning—or maybe relearning—that lesson.

Earlier this year, I invited a group of guys from my church to read through a book that had a huge impact on me. We now meet regularly to discuss our thoughts on the reading, as well as a variety of topics. In short, it has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

So far this year, I have also been able to reconnect with friends that live far away. I get to hang out with one of these guys every few months or so. I only see another about once a year. Another, we can get together about every three years. Another, this was the first time in about ten years that we have been in the same room. In each case, our wives talked, our kids played, and we picked up right where we left off. It has been amazing.

But, then something hit me: everything I have done with my friends could be done—has been done—digitally.

I have been in discussion groups—online. I’m pretty sure we could have created some space for my reading group. I have ‘kept up’ with my long-distance friends and their families over the years—digitally. If you had asked me what they were up to, even in recent weeks, I would have been able to answer confidently.

But, here’s the thing…

When it comes to personal relationships, digital connection is a great supplement, but it is no substitution.

I would not trade the few hours I have recently spent with my friends for all the digital connectedness in the world. Here are a few reasons why. Continue reading “Personal > Digital”

3 Bible Passages for Thinking about Joshua Harris

Have you heard about Joshua Harris? Chances are you have heard more about him in the past two weeks than you have in the past two years. If not, allow me to update.

Two weeks ago, Harris and his wife announced that they were getting a divorce. This is big news for the former megachurch pastor and author of the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a book that was central in sparking the so-called “purity culture.” (See here.)

Then, last week, Harris announced, “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.” He went on to write,

[T]o the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.

So, here’s the thing…

We have seen people embrace a Christian identity and deny a Biblical sexual ethic in order to embrace the sexual revolution. What strikes many about Harris’ story is not simply a repudiation of Biblical sexuality but of Biblical Christianity altogether. As Christians, how are we to think about such an influential figure renouncing the faith?

I would offer three passages to guide us. Continue reading “3 Bible Passages for Thinking about Joshua Harris”

Why I love Superhero Stories

I love comic books. I love the storylines. I love the history behind the stories. I love the characters—most of them anyways. So, ever since the tidal wave of superhero movies flooded the past two decades, I have been all in.

Sure, there were superhero movies before the year 2000, but well-made movies were few and far between. It should also be said that not all comic book movies made since then are worth watching. (I’m still bitter about the 105 minutes I will never get back thanks to Green Lantern.) However, comic book movies have seen unprecedented success in recent years.

With the advent of believable CGI, brilliant casting, and skillful adaptation of classic storylines, long-time enthusiasts like myself have welcomed multitudes of new fans.

Furthermore, with box office records broken annually, it does not seem like the flood will be receding any time soon. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grossed over $18 billion with solid production plans well into the 2020s. Superhero movies are a dominant presence on the list of the highest-earning movie franchises of all time.

With that many movies, making that much money, over that amount of time, there must be something that makes them that popular with that many people. I believe there are several themes common among superhero movies that connect to the heart of the human experience. 

Here’s the thing…

I love superhero stories, and you probably do too.

Here are three reasons why: Continue reading “Why I love Superhero Stories”

Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)

As a Christian parent, are you concerned that your children have doubts about the faith you are passing on to them? As a youth pastor or minister, are you troubled by the apathy so many of the kids in your youth group show toward spiritual things? As a Christian educator, are you worried that you are out of your depth with the questions your students have about the Christian worldview?

Being all three, I can relate. The fact is that the generation currently coming of age, Generation Z as they are called, are living a profoundly different adolescence than even the most recent generation before them. So, how do we Christian parents, pastors, and teachers help them stay grounded in the faith and thrive in the culture?

Here’s the thing…

Thankfully, we have some help.

In their newest book, So the Next Generation Will Know (set to release May 1), renowned Christian apologists Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace offer a guide to engaging what is quickly becoming the largest and most secularized generation. Continue reading “Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)”

Mending the Secular/Sacred Split

Many Christians find themselves living in two separate worlds, one on Sunday and the other the rest of the week.

They may see their faith as an add-on that merely supplements their daily routine. The effect that being a Christian has on their lives is limited to nominal traditions and comfort in times of crisis. They do not see their Christianity as having any implications on their jobs outside of being an upright, honest, hard-working, gospel witness while doing it.

On the other hand, they may see their faith as being somehow beyond their day-to-day. Worshiping God is something done in a Sunday service. Serving God is something done in organized church ministry. They see their jobs as John Beckett describes “a second-class endeavor—necessary to put bread on the table, but somehow less noble than more sacred pursuits like being a minister or a missionary.”[1]

In other words, they have bought into the secular/sacred split, dividing all of life into a two-story house that Francis Schaeffer described decades ago. They have relegated “real world” issues and “everyday” life downstairs along with all things secular. They have confined their Christianity upstairs, as it were, with personal preference, subjective values, and everything else sacred.

But, this is a huge departure from the Christian life as prescribed in the Bible, doing everything in Jesus’ name (Colossians 3:17) and to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)

So, here’s the thing…

We need to mend the secular/sacred split. Continue reading “Mending the Secular/Sacred Split”